Zambia’s Support for Liberation Movements; 1964-1979

The support Zambia gave to the liberation movements of southern Africa is a strong theme in Zambian history and national identity; the lengths to which they aided the various movements came at a great cost ‘in terms of human life, infrastructure and lost opportunity for economic growth’, as Livingstone Museum, southern Zambia, explains.  But there has been surprisingly little research done into the historical realities of that support, despite the large amount of written work on the conflicts that engulfed the region in the 1960s and 1970s.  This is perhaps due to the perception that Zambia’s support for the liberation movements was a mere ‘aspect’ of its foreign policy, that it formed ‘only one element of a broader strategy’.[1] This may be true, but there is scope for more work on this subject, which this paper hopes to illustrate by briefly covering some of the major themes.  The most substantial work thus far has been done by Douglas Anglin, cited above, but his work only covers the period up to 1974.[2] The years from 1974 to 1979 cast a different light on the topic, raising questions of the efficacy of Zambia’s support and the nature of Kenneth Kaunda’s role.  Further work by Anglin, Joseph Hanlon, Stephen Chan and Martin Meredith have shown the regional relevance of Zambia’s foreign policy, but more attention is paid to the relationship with South Africa and Rhodesia than the internal intricacies of Zambia’s support for liberation movements.[3] Hanlon shows Zambia’s role in the region in economic terms, such as how South Africa benefited during this period from trading with Zambia but still punished it with military raids for its support of liberation movements.[4] Chan also questions the relationship that formed between South Africa and Zambia during this period, and speaks of a ‘Zambian elite’ who benefited from this relationship despite its unpopularity with the general population.[5]

This paper is by no means an exhaustive study; much information such as that which concerns the funding provided to the liberation movements is still classified, and much business was done in secrecy.[6] The information sourced for this paper includes the University of Zambia (UNZA) library and the National Archives of Zambia.  The library is a useful source but the collection is rather depleted and run down, and there is a severe lack of Zambian scholarship in the fields of history and international affairs.  The National Archives of Zambia have recently been refurbished, although access to some documents, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, is still limited and other documents pertaining to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be hit or miss when it comes to valuable information.  Their collection of newspapers, such as the Times of Zambia, was useful; despite being a government paper it was not shy of criticizing government policy and can be used to gauge what public opinion was like at the time.  Once Zambia became a one-party state in 1972, much of the archived material after this date is less useful as it was transferred from government departments to the Central Committee of the ruling party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP).[7] The National Archives at Kew, London, are also useful, as some recently released documents under the 30 year restriction rule sheds light on British involvement and policy at the time, such as that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  By reassessing these Zambian and British sources, this paper hopes to provide a fresh examination of the nature of Zambia’s support for southern African liberation movements.  It raises questions about the efficacy of this Zambian support and the degree to which President Kenneth Kaunda really was – as he liked to portray himself – the principle architect behind this part of Zambian foreign policy.  This paper takes issue with the assertion made by Stephen Chan that Kaunda was the main source of decision making in Zambian affairs, by showing that he did in fact come under pressure from members of his own government and on several occasion succumbed to this pressure.[8] Despite the rhetoric displayed by Kaunda during this period, it will be shown the extent to which Zambia was brought to its knees by continuing its policy of supporting liberation movements.  The period of 1964 until 1979 has been chosen as it shows the period from Zambia’s independence until the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in the Zambian capital of Lusaka in 1979, a watershed moment in Zambia’s history.  The Commonwealth will also be referred to in this paper; it provides an insight into Britain’s involvement in the region, the relations Britain formed with its former colonies and how Kaunda used this relationship to garner support for his policy on liberation movements.

Zambia was formerly the British colony of Northern Rhodesia and in 1953 was brought into the Central African Federation, incorporating Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi).  But by the time of British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s tour of African in 1960, and his famous ‘Wind of Change’ speech given in Cape Town on the 3rd of February that year, it was clear that independence would eventually be on its way to the member states of the Federation.  But this did not mean that Kaunda did not have to fight against the Federation for independence; indeed he was responsible for the Cha Cha Cha campaign of civil disobedience against the Northern Rhodesian government.  It was only in April 1963 that Northern Rhodesia was given the right to secede, after Nyasaland, and by December 1963 the Central African Federation was finished.[9] At midnight on the 24th October 1964 the Union Jack flag was lowered for the last time as Zambia had gained full independence.  But Zambia was born into a difficult situation, to say the least.  It was a landlocked country surrounded by minority white regimes in Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia; it had a troublesome Congo to the north and Apartheid South Africa in the south, which regional power had a long stretch.  It inherited an economy that was completely dependent on copper and thus at the mercy of global copper prices, and was almost entirely run by whites and foreign businesses.[10] Zambia was also at this time dependent on the Benguela Railway, which ran from the Copperbelt region of central Zambia westwards through Angola to the port of Lobito on the Atlantic Ocean.  There are many instances when the Angolan government would manipulate Zambia’s reliance on the Benguela Railway to punish it for supporting Angolan liberation movements.[11] Zambia’s only ally in the region was Tanzania and its president Julias Nyerere; he too was committed to supporting liberation movements, but had the luxury of a long coastline and a more robust and varied economy than Zambia.

To the west of Zambia was the Portuguese colony of Angola, which had three nationalist movements fighting Portuguese forces for independence; Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA); Jonas Savimbi’s União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA); and Holden Roberto’s Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA).  All three of these movements conducted their early operations from outside Angola, leading Portuguese forces to conduct devastating cross-border raids into Zambia.  To the south-east was Mozambique, another Portuguese colony experiencing an anti-colonial guerrilla insurgency, most notably from Eduardo Mondlane’s Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO).  Malawi and Tanzania were not sympathetic towards FRELIMO, leaving Zambia as their only option to set up bases in.[12] Portugal as a colonial power in Angola and Mozambique was quite different to that of Britain; they preferred the term ‘overseas territory’ and showed no signs of compromise let alone granting independence to its territories.[13] To the south was Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, with Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU) and Ndabaningi Sithole’s and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) the two main liberation movements.[14] Zambia had been playing host to these two movements since 1963, but even this early their presence in Lusaka proved unpopular, with Zambian youths wrecking ZANU’s offices in response to ZANU’s accusations that ZAPU was receiving preferential treatment from the Zambian government.[15] Zambia also gave support to the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) of what is Namibia today, and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, although the latter of these two would be more active in Zambia in the 1980s.

The nature of the support given to liberation movements

After independence in 1964, Kaunda swiftly threw his weight behind the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which had been formed in 1963.  It was based on the principles of pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism, and its charter was similar to that of the United Nations but without the Security Council.  A special wing was established to assist those states who had not yet achieved liberation, which would be run by a Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.[16] Kaunda allowed a Liberation Centre to be set up in Lusaka, which was to provide offices to those liberation movements who had received official recognition from the OAU.  This would allow them to conduct the business of processing refugees, organising transit through Zambia, access to propaganda and other various benefits.[17] From early on it is clear that the OAU was pressuring Zambia into providing more support than it was initially comfortable with; one official said that he was under pressure to allow the transit of arms and ammunition through Zambia, but could not do so owing to ‘Zambia’s difficulties at the present moment’.[18] Tanzania was geo-politically much better suited to provide extensive help to the liberation movements, especially when it came to training camps and the acquirement of arms and ammunition.  Kaunda made no secret of his wish to assist the liberation movements, but in these early days he was still unsure of the exact nature of support to give, as he had to consider the reactions of his neighbours who would be the targets of the liberation movements’ struggle.

It was not long after formation that the Liberation Committee ran into financial trouble.  Member states of the OAU had been willing to talk the talk when it came to the liberation of Africa, but the trouble came when it was time for them to put their hands in their pockets.  By August 1965, nearly half the member states had not contributed their assessed contribution of £14,000.[19] The OAU Liberation Committee would shrink in its influence in Zambia as Kaunda gradually formed his own policy towards the liberation movements, although Zambia and Tanzania would be the only two states which remained up to date with its payments to the Liberation Committee.[20] Zambia also received support for his policy from outside Africa.  Relations with the Commonwealth were good at independence; the Secretariat in London was only formed in1965 but Kaunda enjoyed a good relationship with Secretary General Arnold Smith in those early days.  He publicly supported the Commonwealth, describing it as a tool that ‘can help spread independence’ in Africa.[21] But the issue of Rhodesia would prove to be a strain on their relationship, with Kaunda constantly pressuring the Commonwealth into taking more action against Ian Smith and even threatening to back the UN in decisions on Rhodesia.[22] Scandinavian countries had an exemplary record in assisting Zambia with its policy; Sweden in particular provided much humanitarian assistance to the liberation movements present in Zamia, and always did so after thorough consultation with the Zambian government – particularly when it came to issues of funding.[23]

Perhaps the most consistent aspect of Kaunda’s policy towards the liberation movements was his denial of their presence in Zambia.  He made no secret of his ideological support towards them, such as though pan-Africanism and Non-Alignment, and it was well known that he set up the Liberation Centre in Lusaka for administrative purposes.  One of the consequences of the regional conflict that was taking place was the influx of refugees over Zambia’s porous borders.  Refugee camps were set up to cope with the increasing numbers over time, but it will be shown that there was an increasing amount of camps set up by freedom fighters from neighbouring countries.  Kaunda consistently denied the presence of soldiers, bases, camps, or anything else involving military goods from early on, when it is plausible that he genuinely did not know, until there were virtually tens of thousands of soldiers all over Zambia.  His early denials were confident, stating that there was

‘no truth in the allegation that Zambia is helping freedom fighters with arms or that the Zambian government is providing and other facilities which could be described as encouraging or assisting them in the armed confrontation reported.  In fact, the Government has confiscated illegal arms from freedom fighters’.[24]

But this assertion would become more difficult to defend as events unfolded, and it became more obvious that there had to be some Government knowledge of at least some of the training camps.  In a meeting between Kaunda and Commonwealth Secretary General Arnold Smith, Kaunda stated that he only allowed the freedom fighters to maintain offices in Lusaka, but also pointed out that it was impossible to patrol the entire border ‘as Smith wanted’.[25] Unfortunately due to the secrecy of this information and a reluctance of Government ministers to divulge in their prior knowledge, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much was known of these camps and how much assistance was given to them.

After UDI

Zambia’s post-independence honeymoon ended abruptly on the 11th November 1965 with Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), when Ian Smith cut all ties with Britain and went it alone, coining the phrase ‘rebel regime’.  Kaunda appeared to have miscalculated this event, stating weeks before that he doubted they would ever do it, and as late as 1968 he still referred to UDI as a ‘passing phase’.[26] But he immediately took his anger out on the Zimbabwean liberation movements in Lusaka, launching scathing attacks on them through the media, calling them ‘stupid idiots’ and ‘chicken in a basket’.[27] By this point Kaunda felt that the Zimbabweans had been provided with enough assistance for a UDI to be averted, but instead ZAPU and ZANU appeared to be living in laps of luxury and bickering with each other, often quite violently.  He came under renewed pressure from within his own government and the OAU to allow troops from member states and even China and the Soviet Union into Zambia, in case of an attack by the Rhodesian Air Force. Kaunda appealed directly to British Prime Minster Harold Wilson for assistance, to which Britain responded by sending out a squadron of Javelin fighter jets, to take up a temporary defensive position on Zambia’s border with Rhodesia.[28] But Kaunda had little option but to continue assisting the Zimbabwean nationalists, and increased his efforts to unite the two parties.

By 1966 a further eight liberation movements, in addition to ZAPU and ZANU, were present at the Liberation Centre in Lusaka, ranging from sub-offices to headquarters.[29] This coincided with an increased amount of cross border raids being committed by Portuguese forces, as Angolan and Mozambican refugees and freedom fighter numbers increased in Zambia.  Not only did Zambia disapprove of this early presence of freedom fighters in the border region, it was soon shown that Zambia was entirely unable to regulate it.  The Zambian Police Force had suffered a constant loss of personnel in the years proceeding independence, combined with a vital oil pipeline to protect and a vast border to patrol, it would prove an impossible task to stem the flow of people across its borders.[30] In the coming years, border incursions would increase as would the number of Zambian civilians killed in the crossfire, as in 1968 when entire villages were being destroyed by helicopter gun fire.[31] In a marked escalation by 1972, villages on the border with Angola were being raided by freedom fighters for supplies, a Zambian para-military camp in Kanongesha was raided by Angolan freedom fighters for arms and ammunition, and border patrols recorded daily ‘provocative incidents, airspace violations and cross-border shooting’.[32] From this it can be seen that Zambia was already struggling to cope with the liberation movements it was supposed to be assisting.  Kaunda constantly reiterated that the Zambian people were willing to fight back against this aggression, but in 1970 the Zambian army had only 4,000 personnel and had no combat aircraft.[33] Zambian forces would prove no match for the highly trained Portuguese, Rhodesian and South African troops; as one British Conservative MP noted, Lusaka would be ‘flattened’ if any of the neighbouring states were to use direct force.[34]

The Lusaka Manifesto on Southern Africa was Kaunda’s first major foreign policy statement.  After five years in power, it was still difficult to pinpoint where Kaunda stood in particular to his regional foreign policy.  Signed in Lusaka in 1969, it stated that Zambia would always promote negotiation over violence, but it did state that violence could be used as a last resort if all else failed.   This document would be responsible for Kaunda’s promotion into the Non-Aligned movement, his charismatic personality and pan-Africanist influences made him a popular figure among African presidents.[35] But the Lusaka Manifesto was ambiguous when referring to its support of liberation movements; it did not rule out the use of force to attain its goals of independence and equality, but also encouraged negotiation which can be seen as a subtle South African influence on the document.  Despite this uneasy relationship between South Africa and Zambia, South African forces still conducted raids into Zambia in retaliation for their support of liberation movements, but more as a show of support for Rhodesia than the presence of South African freedom fighters there.  Kaunda would refer to this document in the coming years when talking about his foreign policy, but he would not always abide by its non-violent decree.

Problems arise

Zambia’s relations with Britain and the Commonwealth had severely deteriorated in the years after UDI, as Kaunda felt that Rhodesia was an entirely British problem that should be dealt with by Britain alone.  His feelings gained support in many Commonwealth states, and this nearly brought an end to the Commonwealth in the late 1960s.  Kaunda publicly blasted Britain for its ‘shameful’ policy towards Rhodesia, and claimed that Zambia had ‘no more relations’ with the Commonwealth.[36] But once again Kaunda was in talks with Britain at this time, asking for military assistance against border raids by Rhodesian forces.  When Kaunda complained to Britain about the arrival in Rhodesia of South African police, Britain responded by expressing its concern of the presence of foreign freedom fighters in Zambia.[37] Relations slipped further when it was revealed that Britain was planning to sell arms to South Africa, and at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Singapore in 1971 many states supported Kaunda’s stance against Britain.[38]

Kaunda had bigger problems at home, with the gulf between the ZAPU and ZANU not only growing but turning violent, with gun fights on the streets of Lusaka becoming more frequent.[39] Kaunda’s consistent efforts to unite the two parties had yet to bear fruit; even threats to cut off funding and offers to double funding had not brought the two movements any closer together.[40] When Kaunda finally managed to bring the two parties to the table and sign a pact, as he did in January 1971, it was only a matter of days before fighting between the two ensued.[41] ZANU proved to be the more difficult of the two movements to reconcile, as they constantly accused Kaunda and his government of favouring ZAPU.  There is no doubt some truth to this, as Nkomo and ZAPU were not only seen as less warmongering than Mugabe and other ZANU figures, but Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs Aaron Milner shared the same heritage of ZAPU, as he too was an Ndebele.[42] But this did not stop Kaunda from trying to reconcile the two movements, such as his controversial meeting with South African Prime Minister John Vorster to allow Nkomo, Sithole and Mugabe to be released from Rhodesian prison and engage in talks with Ian Smith.

The Angolan liberation movements also presented further problems to Kaunda, albeit of a different nature.  Zambia had given its support to the MPLA early on as it was the primary liberation movement in Angola, and in 1965 it had already opened a regional office and later headquarters in the Liberation Centre.[43] Jonas Savimbi had spent many years trying to gain official support for UNITA by Zambia and the OAU, despite being unsuccessful UNITA still had bases in western Zambia as early as 1966.[44] Zambia was consistent in its calls for unity within the liberation movements, which is one reason it refused recognition to UNITA, preferring MPLA over the three movements.  But Kaunda came under increasing pressure from certain members within his government to grant recognition and give support to Savimbi and UNITA. The then Ambassador to Egypt (and current president of Zambia) Rupiah Banda and Prime Minister Mainza Chona were instrumental in convincing Kaunda of Savimbi’s credentials and seriousness, when in October 1966 Kaunda raised the restrictions on UNITA and allowed them access to Zambia.[45] However, after less than a year, UNITA soldiers were responsible for attacks on the Benguela Railway in Angola which earned Zambia a harsh rebuke by the Angolan government, threatening to cut off Zambia’s access to the line completely.  Support of UNITA was immediately withdrawn and Savimbi arrested and sent to Cairo.[46] Kaunda went against his own policy of unity between the liberation movements, thus doing nothing to alleviate the situation in western Zambia and worsening relations with the Angolan government. One of his own ministers called on Kaunda to avoid giving Savimbi support, calling him a ‘deadly subversive and destructive foreign element’, advice Kaunda probably wished he took.[47] Kaunda’s short lived support of UNITA proved another miscalculation, a mistake he was unfortunate to repeat in the future.

Despite much of the secrecy involved in Zambia’s support for liberation movements, the difficulty that Zambia was by now experiencing had not gone unnoticed.  The British High Commission in Lusaka issued an investigation into this policy in 1973, which was to be sent back to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.  It refers to the ‘imprecise and somewhat uncomfortable relationship between the movements and the Zambian Government’, to which Zambia was beginning to have less control over.  Kaunda is still seen as the main decider in this policy, although it has become evident that there is a growing influence from the governing party’s Central Committee and particular members of it, such as Mainza Chona.  The OAU Liberation Committee is seen to have less influence on Kaunda, as Julias Nyerere is more often consulted on issues pertaining to the liberation movements.  It is noted that the Zambian population warily recognizes the need to support the liberation movements, but also recognizes that ‘they could not abandon the movements even if they wanted to’.[48] It is at this point Zambia can be seen to be losing control of the liberation movements it first set out to assist.

The Lisbon Coup

By 1974 Zambia’s support for the liberation movements was taking its toll, made tougher by falling copper prices, tough trade sanctions on Rhodesia, further increasing attacks on Zambian soil and a refugee crisis in both the east and west of the country.  Rhodesia had shut the border with Zambia in 1973 in retaliation to the presence of guerrilla bases in the Zambezi border region, but Zambia had defiantly refused to reopen its border when Rhodesia ended its border closure.  This was possible due to the construction of the TANZAM Railway, a Chinese funded railway line linking the Copperbelt with Tanzania, a trade route that would not have to pass through hostile territory.[49] There was also a food shortage, forcing Zambia to accept food aid from UNITA in what must have been a humiliating gesture from Savimbi.[50] Despite Kaunda giving much support to the MPLA and stressing the notion of presenting a united front in their fight, the MPLA split into three and fighting between all parts ensued.  The Portuguese were no closer to granting independence than they ever were, remaining true to their colonial policy.  Even Mainza Chona told the British High Commission that he did not expect to see any progress on Angolan and Mozambican independence any time before 1978.[51]

Despite the precarious situation Zambia was in, its revelation came not from Lusaka or even Africa, but in Lisbon, Portugal on the 25th April 1974. Largely in response to the devastating colonial wars Portugal was engaged in, the government of Marcelo Caetano was overthrown in a military coup by a deputy chief in the general staff António de Spínola.  Spínola had made clear the unwinnable nature of the colonial wars Portugal was engaged in, and only days after the coup the entire Portuguese colonial administration fell apart.[52] Kaunda was quick to seize the opportunity, and immediately brought the liberation movements from Angola and Mozambique and representatives of the new Portuguese government together in Lusaka for independence talks.  FRELIMO were by default the largest liberation movement in Mozambique, and were the only movement given official recognition by both Zambia and the OAU, together with a regional office in Lusaka.[53] But they had struggled in their fight against Portuguese forces, not helped by Malawi’s refusal to allow freedom fighters to pass through or set up bases.[54] But there was a second liberation movement in Mozambique, Comité Revolucionário de Moçambique (COREMO), although they were never given official recognition they were still allowed to locate their headquarters in Lusaka.  When independence talks for Mozambique began, FRELIMO were not happy with the options presented to them with regards to COREMO.  Kaunda swiftly withdrew all support for COREMO, barred them from the talks, closed their offices and rounded up all their soldiers operating in the border region and sent them to Tanzania.[55] This rare but effective show of force allowed for an agreement to be reached relatively quickly on Mozambican independence, although perhaps Kaunda could have done more to discourage the series of retribution attacks that took place in the coming months, leading to a mass departure of skilled workers that would severely hamper Mozambique over the coming years.

Angola was to prove a far more difficult challenge to the negotiating skills of Kaunda, not helped by the recently discovered natural wealth that Angola possessed and the interest expressed in the region by the major actors in the Cold War.  The FNLA had overtaken the MPLA in terms of military power, the latter having suffered from its factional fighting.  UNITA was also on the scene; it was the weakest of the three movements by 1974 but had backing from China and significant influence in Angola’s largest tribe.[56] Despite these differences, the Alvor Agreement was signed in Lusaka on the 31st January 1975 which would lead to a coalition government in Angola, albeit a short-lived one.  It was only a matter of weeks before fighting between the three movements intensified, only to be made worse by the involvement of Cuban, Russian, Chinese, American and South African forces, to mention a few.

After the agreement was signed, Zambia once again gave official recognition to UNITA although it still recognized the MPLA as the legitimate government of Angola.  The reasons for this were that Kaunda had grown increasingly wary of the MPLA, concerned not only about amount of arms flowing into Angola from the Soviet Union, but of events he learned of after the signing of the Alvor Agreement.  Kaunda was told of the execution of fifteen Angolans, part of the Chipenda faction of the MPLA, that took place in a camp on Zambia soil in 1974, this incensed Kaunda and he immediately withdrew his support for the MPLA and threw his lot in with UNITA, with some convincing by Chona and Banda.[57] What made this move significant is that South Africa was one of the major backers of UNITA, which was seen as the aligning of Zambian and Apartheid foreign policy.  This turned out to be a major miscalculation by Kaunda, which came at a time when Kaunda and Chona were seen to be spending much time travelling between Pretoria and Lusaka trying to find an agreement on the situation in Angola.  This perceived alignment with South Africa split opinion in Zambia, some saw it as a genuine stance of anti-imperialism and non-intervention against Russian involvement in the region, others saw it as an appeasement to South Africa and its racial government policies.[58] Student riots broke out at UNZA in January 1976, leading to several students and lecturers being arrested.  A mutiny broke out at Lusaka Airport, when pilots refused to bomb MPLA targets in Angola and a full scale gunfight broke out, leading to a state of emergency being declared.[59] In April 1976 Kaunda was forced to retreat on his policy, and once again withdrew his support of UNITA and officially recognized the MPLA as the government of Angola.  His support of UNITA may have had little consequence in the civil war that would engulf Angola, but it pushed the patience of the Zambian people to its limit and showed that Kaunda was susceptible to influences from within his own government yet again.

The assassination of Herbert Chitepo

Southern Africa had changed drastically after the events in April 1974.  ZANU had now moved a major part of its operations out of Zambia and into the independent Mozambique, allowing it to open up a second front on Rhodesia.  South Africa no longer gave its unconditional support to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, now that it shared a border with an independent Mozambique.  There was an event in 1975 would drastically alter the landscape of Zambia’s increasingly strained support for the Zimbabwean liberation movements.  On the 18th March 1975, Herbert Chitepo, head of ZANU’s War Council, was killed in a car blast outside his home in Lusaka.[60] To understand the significance of this event, it must be seen in context, as it marks the end of Kaunda’s patient negotiating between the Zimbabwean movements and the end of his pacifist tones of the Lusaka Declaration on Southern Africa.  The events in Mozambique and Angola had changed the dynamics of the region considerably, and Smith was brought under increasing pressure to release Nkomo, Sithole and Mugabe – who had been arrested and imprisoned in Salisbury, Rhodesia – and to engage in talks with them.  Kaunda was instrumental in uniting ZANU, ZAPU and a third liberation movement called Frozili under the new African National Council (ANC) under Bishop Abel Muzorewa.[61] The Unity Accord of the OAU was signed in Lusaka on the 3rd December 1974, although this too would have a similar ending to the previous treaties signed between the two parties.[62] ZANU was not in a good position to negotiate, it had suffered with the detention of its leaders, and there was factional fighting between those loyal to Sithole, Mugabe and military commander Josiah Tongogara.[63] A small faction of ZANU soldiers objected to the signing of the unity accord, not only because of the fractured state of the party but because of the prospect of serving alongside ZAPU.  Under the leadership of a young soldier called Thomas Nhari, a group of rebels marched from their Chifombo base in eastern Zambia and other bases in Mozambique to disrupt events in Lusaka, it what was to become the Nhari Rebellion.  The rebels were eventually rounded up by Zambian police and handed over to Chitepo, as the most senior figure of ZANU in Zambia.  What happened next is still shrouded in mystery and debated in Zimbabwe to this day.  The rebels were handed over to Chitepo, on the condition that they received a trial and were not executed.  It is estimated that over 250 ZANU men were killed in the reprisals of the Nhari Rebellion, not only were the rebels in Lusaka killed but the Chifombo base too was raided.[64] It is still debated as to who was responsible for the executions; a recent book by Louis White claims that Chitepo gave the orders for their death, but Fay Chung – an academic and former ZANU guerrilla, claims that Tongagara was responsible.[65] Kaunda was understandably angry that his continued efforts to unite the Zimbabwean liberation movements had ended in the deaths of hundreds of soldiers on Zambian soil, and relations with ZANU rapidly deteriorated.  Zambian officials became even more open in their hostility towards ZANU officials, with Foreign Minister Vernon Mwaanga in particular calling for Chitepo’s arrest and trial.[66] Chitepo is said to have feared for his life in his last few days.

On the morning of the 18th March 1975, when the bomb blast killed Chitepo and two of his bodyguards, there were many people who could have benefited from his death, in what has been called the JFK mystery of Zimbabwe.  The Rhodesians no doubt would have benefited from the removal of this high level ZANU figure, and after the war claimed that they were responsible for placing a landmine under his vehicle.[67] ZAPU would have benefited from his removal, as they would have been left as the sole Zimbabwean liberation movement in Zambia, as by then ZANU were already moving operations into Mozambique.  ZANU was split into several factions, and even Chitepo’s wife maintains that it was an internal assassination by ZANU.

But what concerns us here is the alleged role of the Zambian government.  Zambian police rounded up over 70 ZANU members in the days immediately after the assassination, and barred all Zimbabwean liberation movements from Zambia with the exception of the ANC.[68] Many ZANU members fled back over the border into Rhodesia, which is said to have aroused suspicion in Kaunda, and Mugabe immediately launched a verbal offensive at Kaunda for the detention of so many ZANU men.[69] In response to criticism of his handling of the assassination, Kaunda announced the opening of a Commission of Inquiry into Chitepo’s death; at the opening he complained that ‘Zambia had spent millions of Kwacha and lost more lives and property to assist the Zimbabweans in their liberation struggle than that [had been] lost in the armed struggle to free Mozambique and Angola’.[70] The commission was filled with Zambian officials and its impartiality questioned.  A document published by the owner of the Times of Zambia, Tiny Rowland, on the day of the conclusion of the Commission claims to show that Kaunda and South African Prime Minister John Vorster had planned Chitepo’s assassination, due to his continued opposition to unity and to amalgamation into the ANC.[71] Although the nature of this document is of questionable quality, it raises questions over Kaunda’s role in the whole Chitepo incident, as his frustration and growing animosity towards ZANU was no secret.  The Commission published its findings a year later, in an unsurprising result it blamed virtually every member of ZANU’s High Command and dismissed at Rhodesian or South African involvement.[72] After expelling all ZANU men from Zambia, Kaunda threw his weight behind ZAPU.  In a noted departure from the relative pacifism of the Lusaka Declaration, Kaunda became more warmongering in his speech, declaring that ‘only war can free Zimbabwe’.[73]

This period marked a change in Zambia’s policy towards liberation movements.  By now the Angolan and Mozambican movements were virtually out of the picture, and only ZAPU and SWAPO were operating out of Lusaka by the end of 1976.  His chasing out of Zambia all ZANU members had sent many of them to their deaths when crossing back into Rhodesia.[74] But Kaunda was forced to appeal fellow Commonwealth countries at the 1975 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting for assistance, especially with the refugee crisis that had was unfolding in Zambia.  By December 1975 it is estimated that 35,000 Angolan refugees were present in western Zambia to escape the civil war in Angola, as well as a further 5,000 Namibians.[75] The talks in Kingston ended with the Commonwealth pledging its support for Zambia, especially in its struggle to adhere to the sanctions in place against Rhodesia.[76]

Escalation

The coming years would be marked by a large-scale escalation in conflict on Zambia soil.  Rhodesia was now experiencing a war on two fronts, with guerrilla infiltration coming from both Zambia and Mozambique.  With the expulsion of ZANU from Zambia, Kaunda hand handed their bases over to Nkomo and ZAPU, increasing their capability to train soldiers on a larger scale, and was a departure from his constant policy of denying their presence in Zambia.[77] This led to a subsequent increase in Rhodesian attacks on targets in Zambia.  There was a clear distinction in the Zambian targets chosen by Rhodesian forces; with bases and camps forming one type of target, and the other being strategic targets like railways, bridges and roads which they hoped would force Zambia to resume – or increase as some suspected – trading with and through Rhodesia.[78] Furthermore, a rebellion at a SWAPO camp in western Zambia had led to dozens of arrests both at the Mboroma camp and in Lusaka.  Estimates at the time say there were over 1,000 soldiers at the camp, which had been attracting attacks by South African forces.[79] Curfews and blackouts were rolled out in major cities as incursions into Zambia for Rhodesian forces penetrated deeper.  Zambian forces on the border were in frequent gun battles with Rhodesian forces, but successes were limited despite Kaunda’s assertions that Zambia would not tolerate external aggression and would ‘continue to render every support for … the liberation movements of southern Africa’.[80] In one horrific attack, three Zambian soldiers and three civilians were killed when napalm was used in a border gunfight.[81]

After several high profile attacks on ZAPU bases in Zambia, the sheer size and scale of the training camp network now in existence in Zambia was coming apparent.  In 1978 the Rhodesians launched Operation Gatling, a coordinated attack on the largest bases in Zambia, such as Freedom Camp just north of Lusaka and Mkushi Camp an hour north-east of Lusaka.[82] Over 400 people are believed to have been killed in the combined attacks which saw Rhodesian forces brought in by helicopter and razing both camps to the ground.[83] Zambia complained that both camps consisted of refugees, but photographic evidence shows a large military presence and arms dumps at both camps.[84] Nkomo had been having some success in shooting down Rhodesian aircraft in the border regions, and some Zambians were beginning to question why Kaunda did not offer the same form of defence against these attacks.[85] Kaunda reiterated that any form of retaliation to these attacks would be ‘suicide’ and bring chaos to Zambia, but that point appears to have already been reached by then.[86]

Kaunda was in frequent contact with the British government, and was also rumoured to be in talks with Smith over a solution to the escalation in violence.[87] Despite Kaunda’s constant public declarations that the situation in Zambia was under control, his secret meeting with British Prime Minister James Callaghan in Nigeria in September 1978 tells a different story.  After stressing the need for the meeting to be kept secret due to the sensitive nature of his visit, he stressed his worry of the strength that Nkomo’s army had reached in Zambia, and that they looked ready to launch a full scale invasion of Rhodesia in the coming months.  Kaunda said that he was under increasing pressure from within his own government to accept generous assistance from Cuba and the Soviet Union, but it was only the continued help from fellow Commonwealth countries that had allowed him to refrain from ‘turning east’ thus far.  Britain offered military assistance such as a defence system for Lusaka and a small number of RAF Phantom jets, but Kaunda stressed that this would be a ‘moral issue’ he would have to consider.[88] The meeting concluded with Britain agreeing to purchase Zambian copper to assist the Zambian economy and to send out military advisors to assess Zambia’s defence, but the most significant point from the meeting was the agreement on the necessity of bringing Nkomo and Smith to the negotiating table.[89]

The beginning of the end

1979 began the way that 1978 had ended; with further attacks on ZAPU camps around Zambia and continual bombing of Lusaka, Livingstone and other cities.[90] Some questioned Lusaka’s ability to host the Commonwealth Head of Governments meeting in August, due to the increase in violence it was experiencing.[91] This was none more prevalent than on the 13th April 1979, when the Rhodesians made their most daring raid yet.  ‘Operation Bastille’ consisted of several dozen Rhodesian soldiers driving up to Lusaka on the main road and launching coordinated attacks on a ZAPU armoury west of the city, the Liberation Centre and Joshua Nkomo’s house.[92] Nkomo had managed to escape the attack by climbing out the window of his toilet, no mean feat considering the size of the man.  But his house was destroyed and the Liberation Centre sacked, as well as several Zambian guards killed.  The Rhodesians managed to escape, and a curfew on Lusaka was swiftly enforced.  There is no greater example of the vulnerability of Zambia and its inability to defend itself than this event, as foreign forces drove into the capital and launched an attack only a short distance down the road from State House.  But Commonwealth Secretary General Sonny Ramphal insisted that the Commonwealth meeting proceed, saying that it was probably the most important meeting of the organization yet.[93]

The 1979 Head of Government Meeting in August was Kaunda’s crowning moment.  It was a tense and delicate meeting, not helped by the arrival of the new Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who had already expressed her desire for the current Muzorewa government in Zimbabwe–Rhodesia, a situation that Kaunda was not happy with.  Kaunda was instrumental in bringing all parties to the table, with Mugabe and Nkomo proved difficult men to please.  Kaunda’s record showed that he was more comfortable on the big scene at Commonwealth conferences than negotiating settlements between liberation movements, and together with his new found allies in Ramphal and British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary Lord Carrington, all making sure the conference ran smoothly.  Veteran Commonwealth journalist Derek Ingram covered the meeting, noting how Kaunda was ‘instrumental’ in getting Mugabe, Nkomo and Smith to agree to further talks at Lancaster House, which would eventually lead to full independence for Zimbabwe.  Kaunda was also responsible for chairing an emergency meeting in his study between Thatcher, Ramphal and Australia’s Malcolm Fraser, after Fraser had leaked news of the agreement to the Australian press, jeopardizing the agreement.[94] The talks would end with the Lusaka Declaration of 7th August 1979 on Racism and Racial Prejudice, and with Kaunda gracefully dancing with Thatcher at a ball held after the meeting, two significant and poignant moments signaling the victory of Kaunda’s policy and principles, and the repairing of British and Zambian relations fourteen years after UDI.

Attacks on Zambia continued after the Commonwealth meeting, and even after the Lancaster House meeting, as Rhodesians tried to stop ZAPU soldiers from returning back to Zimbabwe to vote in the first elections.  Estimates put the number of ZAPU fighters present in Zambia at the time of the conference at 18,000 – 25,000, lending weight to the idea that a full scale invasion was not far away.[95] The last months of 1979 saw dozens of roads and bridges blown up, costing the Zambian economy a great deal in lost trade.  In a sign of solidarity with their president, 50,000 Zambians took to the streets of Lusaka in November 1979 to show their support for Kaunda, something not many Zambians had felt the desire to do for many years.[96] The Times of Zambia newspaper started a ‘Bridges Fund’, to help the repairing of bridges around the country, of which Germany, America and Sweden all contributed to.

It would take some time for events in Zambia to settle down, and it was not until 1981 that Kaunda could even ‘pretend to be the master of his own house’.[97] Considering the support that Kaunda had given Nkomo and ZAPU over the years, he was understandably disappointed that Mugabe had been voted in ahead of Nkomo, it would in fact be two years before Kaunda paid his first state visit to Zimbabwe.  The 1980s would see Zambia’s policy take on new directions, as the world’s attention turned to South-West Africa and South Africa.  Kaunda would be instrumental in supporting SWAPO and the ANC of South Africa in their fight for independence, as would his role in the Commonwealth.

Conclusion

There can little doubt of the volatile situation that Zambia was born into.  Blessed with natural wealth, Kaunda acknowledged that ‘the Copperbelt is a white supremacy oasis in a black republic’.[98] Zambia was surrounded by hostile states, but they were hostile because Kaunda had made clear very early on his desire to support the liberation movements from within those countries.  Zambia did have other options than the policy it chose; countries like Malawi and Botswana chose accommodation, which is an acknowledgement of their submissive position (with regards to South African in particular) in return for beneficial policies such as trade; another option is dissociation, whereby a country rejects aligning itself with the larger state, but does not confront it head on either; lastly a county can choose confrontation, whereby it commits itself to the liberation of the minority in the larger state.[99] It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where on this level of analysis Zambia would fit, perhaps somewhere in between dissociation and confrontation, depending on which suited it the most at the time.  There can be no doubting Kaunda’s pan-African credentials during this period, he remained committed to the eradication of all forms of colonialism and racism, and his Lusaka Manifesto would serve as a blueprint for the OAU and Non-Aligned Movement.[100] But behind the persona he presented to his people he was aware of the limitations of his own policy of supporting liberation movements, particularly with regards to South Africa with whom his relationship remained ambiguous right into the 1980s.[101] There is still much to be discovered of this period, such as the extent to which trading continued with Rhodesia even when the border closed, and the allegations that Kaunda was complicit with Rhodesia in some of its attacks in Zambia, such was Kaunda’s fear of Nkomo’s presence there.[102] Just ascertaining exact figures of the numbers of camps that existed and the amount of refugees and fighters that attended these camps would shed much needed light onto the topic, and would allow further investigation into Kaunda’s persistent denial of any knowledge of the existence of these camps.

One of the more remarkable features of this period is the legacy that it enjoys in Zambian history.  The National Museum in Lusaka proudly displays newspaper clippings detailing some of the horrendous attacks that took place on Lusaka and propaganda pamphlets dropped by Rhodesians, situated in the same section as the anti-colonial struggle.  When asked, many Zambians have a pragmatic view of this part of their history, acknowledging the devastation that occurred with the view that it was a policy that Kaunda and Zambia had to pursue, for the sake of southern Africa.  Kaunda, too, enjoys a legacy that not many retired African presidents do; he is still an immensely popular figure not only in Zambia but in the Commonwealth.  Despite the questions that this paper has raised over the efficacy of Kaunda’s policy, it must be acknowledged that he was responsible for keeping Zambia relatively peaceful and stable in a time of great conflict, and stepped handed power to his predecessor when democratic elections were (eventually) held in 1992.  Although it is mildly ironic that over after nearly 30 years of independence in Zimbabwe, Zambia is experiencing an influx of refugees from Zimbabwe and Kaunda is calling for unity within the Zimbabwean government.

It has been shown that Kaunda’s record with regards to his policy of supporting liberation movements is somewhat questionable.  Despite being considered as the sole decider of Zambian foreign policy, Kaunda has been shown to under increasing pressure firstly from the OAU to increase assistance given to liberation movements, then from members of his own government to give official recognition to UNITA, when Kaunda had been a long supporter of the MPLA.  The two occasions that he did give support to UNITA turned out to be disastrous, such as the rebuke from the Angolan government over the Benguela Railway and the events at UNZA and Lusaka Airport.  But Kaunda did resist pressure from within to allow the Soviet Union and Cuba to become involved in Zambia, which may have in the end led to an escalation of the conflict in Angola.  He too showed his ability to ‘knuckle down’, such as the negotiations with FRELIMO during Mozambican independence talks.

It has also been shown the extent to which Zambia lost control of the liberation movements.  From first offering them office space in the Liberation Centre in Lusaka, large amounts of fighters and refugees began using Zambia’s border region as forward bases.  Kaunda’s preference of ZAPU over ZANU was clear from the start, which led to an early breakdown in relations between the Kaunda and Sithole and Mugabe.  After the suspicious events surrounding the assassination of Herbert Chitepo, ZANU was expelled and Joshua Nkomo effectively given the keys to Zambia.  Kaunda was aware that ZAPU were being armed and trained by the Soviet Union, but by 1977 they had grown out of Kaunda’s control and had bases all over the country.  Kaunda’s meeting in Nigeria and the intensity of attacks on Lusaka showed that Kaunda had virtually lost control of his country, and were it not for this efforts at the Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka in August 1979 events could have escalated much further.

Kaunda really found himself in the Commonwealth, where he had a captive and sympathetic audience who were ready to offer assistance.  The near breakup of ‘The Club’, as he affectionately called the Commonwealth, over UDI in Rhodesia was followed by a continued growth in relations, which Kaunda used as leverage to gain assistance from the British government.  Kaunda and the Commonwealth shared policies with regards to the ending of minority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa, although they never always agreed on what course of action was to be taken.[103] During the 1970s Zambia policy of supporting liberation movements received much help from Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand, India, Uganda and Nigeria, relationships with remain strong to this day.

As stated before, this is not an exhaustive study.  It is a brief and general look at the complex, important and misunderstood policy of a country and of a man.  By understanding the events that took place during this period, it allows one a greater understanding of the history of Zambia and of the entire region.  Perhaps this has left more questions unanswered than answered, but there is plenty of room in this field of study and further research is certainly needed.  Africa is a continent where the struggle for liberation is not just a matter of history, as many of the liberation movements still form the ruling party today; a greater understanding of the history of these movements helps create a greater understanding of southern Africa today.


[1] Douglas Anglin, ‘Zambia and Southern African Liberation Movements: 1964-1974’, in Timothy Shaw and Kenneth Heard (Eds.) The Politics of Africa: Dependence and Development (New York, Africana Publishing Company, 1979), p. 183.

[2] Ibid, pp. 183-213.

[3] Douglas Anglin, ‘Southern Africa Under Siege: Options for the Frontline States’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 26 (1998), 549-565; Joseph Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbours: Apartheid Power in Southern Africa (London, James Currey Ltd., 1986); Stephen Chan, Kaunda and Southern Africa: Image and Reality in Foreign Policy (London, British Academic Press, 1992); Martin Meredith, The First Dance of Freedom; Black Africa in the Postwar Era (London, Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1984).  This list is not exhaustive, but covers the major literature that explains Zambia’s role in southern Africa during this period.

[4] Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbours, p. 244.

[5] Chan, Kaunda and Southern Africa, p. 63, 76.

[6] Vincent Khapoya, ‘Determinants of African Support for African Liberation Movements’, Journal of African Studies 3:4 (Winter 1976/), p. 473.

[7] The National Archives of Zambia is currently digitizing certain sections of its collection, including an interesting collection of photographs from the period, http://www.zambianarchives.org.

[8] Chan, Kaunda on Southern Africa, p. 3.

[9] Meredith, First Dance of Freedom, pp. 126-127.

[10] Andrew Roberts, A History of Zambia (London, Heinemann Educational Books, 1976), p. 224.

[11] Paul Moorcraft, African Nemesis: War and Revolution in Southern Africa (London, Brassey’s, 1990), p. 70.

[12] João Cabrita, Mozambique: The Torturous Road to Democracy (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2000), p. 34.

[13] Martin Meredith, The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (London, The Free Press, 2005), p. 310.

[14] The military wing of ZANU was known as the Zimbabwean African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and that of ZAPU was known as the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), but for the case of simplicity their main organizational names will be used in this paper.

[15] The Northern News, 18th June 1964, p. 1.

[16] Guy Arnold, Africa: A Modern History (London, Atlantic Books, 2005), pp. 95-111.

[17] Anglin, Zambia and Southern African Liberation Movements, pp. 190-194.

[18] FA 1/42 (OAU Coordinating Committee on the Liberation of Africa) 90. Letter from A.M. Simbule, High Commissioner for Zambia in Dar es Salaam to the Permanent Secretary, Ministory of Foreign Affairs, 10th May 1965.

[19] Ibid, POL10/1, Draft Resolution on the financial situation of the African Liberation Committee, August 1965.

[20] Khapoya, Determinants of African Support for African Liberation Movements, p. 475.

[21] The Northern News, 26th October 1964, p. 1.

[22] Ibid, 29th may 1965, p. 1.

[23] Tor Stellstrom, Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa: Volume 1 (Stockholm, Elanders Gotab, 1999), pp. 292-363.

[24] Zambia Information Service, Press Release 1724/67, 27th August 1967.

[25] SG/172/ZAM ‘Notes of a meeting between the Commonwealth Secretary General and President Kaunda of Zambia; Lusaka, 28th January 1973.

[26] The Northern News, 7th May 1965, p. 1.

[27] Times of Zambia, 15th November 1965, p.2.

[28] CAB/128/39, Conclusions of a Meeting of the Cabinet held at 10 Downing Street, SW1, on Monday 29th November 1965, p. 3.

[29] Anglin, Zambia and Southern African Liberation Movements, table 8.2, p. 189.

[30] Republic of Zambia Police Report (henceforth known as ZPR) for the year 1967.

[31] ZPR, 1968.

[32] ZPR, 1972.

[33] CAB/129/54 Defence Forces of countries with interests in the Indian Ocean, 31st December 1970, p. B6.

[34] Times of Zambia, 28th October 1967, comments by Nigel Fisher MP.

[35] Timothy Shaw, ‘The Foreign Policy of Zambia: Ideology and Interests’, The Journal of Modern African Studies 14:1 (1976), pp. 82-84.

[36] Times of Zambia, 6th and 12th of October 1967.

[37] Jan Pettman, Zambia: Security and Conflict (Lewes, Julian Friedman Publishers Ltd., 1974), pp. 168-173.

[38] Ibid, p. 176-177.

[39] Times of Zambia, 24th April 1970, p.1; 11th May 1970, p.1.

[40] FA/1/310 (Rhodesia Political), Summary minutes of meeting held on 3rd November 1969.

[41] Times of Zambia, 26th January 1972, p.1.

[42] Chan, Kaunda and Southern Africa, p. 82; Luise White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and Politics in Zimbabwe (Cape Town, Double Storey Books, 2003), p. 50.

[43] Douglas Anglin, Zambia and Southern African Liberation Movements, p. 189.

[44] FA1/1 22 ‘Operations of Angolan Nationalist Parties’, 344/163/01 SEC, 174.

[45] Fred Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi: A Key to Africa (Johannesburg, Macmillan, 1986), pp. 69-70.

[46] Ibid, p. 75.

[47] FA 1/1 22, ‘Letter from Nkoloso to Kaunda’, 7th December 1965, 344/163/D1.

[48] FCO/45/1322 ‘Liberation Movements in Zambia’, letter from J.A. Robson of the British High Commission, Lusaka, to A.B. Moore of the Central and Southern African Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, dated 5th December 1973.

[49] Klass Woldring, ‘Aspects of Zambia’s Foreign Policy in the Context of Southern Africa’ in (Klass Woldring Ed.) Beyond Political Independence: Zambia’s Development Predicament in the 1980s (Berlin, Mouton Publishers, 1984), p. 235.  Although the TANZAM railway would prove to be a lengthy and costly route, not helped by frequent sabotage and disrepair.

[50] Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi, p. 95.

[51] FCO/45/1322, letter from J.S.R. Duncan of the British High Commission in Lusaka to P.M. Foster of the CSAD, FCO in London, dated 18th May 1973.

[52] Meredith, The State of Africa, p. 310-311.

[53] Anglin, Zambia and Southern African Liberation Movements, p. 189.

[54] Cabrita, Mozambique: The Torturous Road to Democracy, p. 30.

[55] Ibid, p. 71-72.

[56] Meredith, The State of Africa, pp. 313-314.

[57] Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi, p. 110.

[58] Zambia Daily Mail, 8th January 1976, p.1.

[59] Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi, pp. 187-188.

[60] Times of Zambia, 19th March 1975, p. 1.

[61] Frozili (Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe) was a small movement formed by disaffected members of ZANU and ZAPU.

[62] White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo, p. 19.

[63] Geoff Hill, The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown (Cape Town, Zebra Press, 2003), pp. 65-66.

[64] White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo, p. 19-27.

[65] Fay Chung, Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle (Uppsala, Nordic Africa Institute, 2006).

[66] White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo, p. 45.

[67] Barbara Cole, The Elite: The Story of the  Rhodesian SAS (Amanzimtoti, Three Knights Publishing, 1984), p. 61; Peter Stiff, See You In November: The Story of an SAS Assassin (Alberton, Galago Publishing, 1999), pp.109-124.

[68] Times of Zambia, 29th March 1975, p.1. ZAPU would subsequently be allowed to stay.

[69] Ibid, p. 3.

[70] Times of Zambia, 1st April 1975, p. 2.

[71] ZANU, The Price of Détente: Kaunda Prepares to Execute More ZANU Freedom Fighters for Smith (London, 1976).

[72] Times of Zambia, 10th April 1976, p. 1.

[73] Times of Zambia, 28th April 1976, p. 1.

[74] Moorcraft, African Nemesis, p. 130.

[75] FCO/45/1759 ‘Political relations between Zambia and other southern African countries’, Letter from M.J. McLoughlin (British High Commission, Zambia) to P.M.H. Young Esq.  (CSAD, FCO) dated 4th December 1975.

[76] Times of Zambia, 6th May 1975, p. 1.

[77] Moorcraft, African Nemesis, p. 130.

[78] Howard Simson, Zambia: A Country Study (Stockholm, The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1985), p. 18.

[79] Peter Katjavivi, A History of Resistance in Namibia (Paris, UNESCO, 1988), p. 107.

[80] Times of Zambia, 3rd September 1977, p. 1.

[81] Times of Zambia, 12th September 1977, p. 1.

[82] Cole, The Elite, p. 225.

[83] Times of Zambia, 23rd October 1978, p. 1.

[84] Stiff, See You In November, pp. 208-216.

[85] Times of Zambia, 20th October 1978, p. 2.

[86] Times of Zambia, 24th October 1978, p. 1.

[87] Colin Legum, The Battlefronts of Southern Africa (New York, Africana Publishing Company, 1988), p. 46.

[88] He would later decline their offer, not feeling comfortable with a British military presence in Zambia.

[89] CAB/128/64/13 ‘Conclusions of a Meeting of the Cabinet held at 10 Downing Street on Thursday 28th September 1978’, Zambia, p. 6.

[90] Times of Zambia, 1st March 1979, p. 1.

[91] Times of Zambia, 14th June 1979, p. 1, these claims were made by the British press, in particular the Telegraph.

[92] Cole, The Elite, pp. 277.

[93] Times of Zambia, 1st June 1979, p. 3.

[94] Interview with Derek Ingram in London, 18th December 2009.

[95] Cole, The Elite, p. 395.

[96] Times of Zambia, 21st November 1979, p. 1.

[97] Moorcraft, African Nemesis, p. 165.

[98] Colin Legum (Ed.), The Speeches of Kenneth Kaunda (London, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 1966), p. viii.

[99] Anglin, Southern Africa Under Siege, pp. 555-556.

[100] Although it would later be altered by then, removing the non-violent aspect of the manifesto.

[101] Jotham Momba, ‘Change and Continuity in Zambia’s Southern African Policy: From Kaunda to Chiluba’, in African Insight 31:2 (Africa Institute of South Africa, 2001).

[102] Legum, The Battlefronts of Southern Africa, p. 27.

[103] Chan, Kaunda and Southern Africa, p. 94.

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Humanitarian Intervention in Africa: Somalia & Sierra Leone

Below is an essay I wrote for my War Studies department.

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Reflecting on humanitarian intervention in Africa, what went wrong in Somalia and what went right in Sierra Leone?

 

The concept of intervention, especially in Africa, is as important today as it was when the Cold War ended.  The recent election violence in Zimbabwe saw many people calling for a military intervention to topple President Robert Mugabe.[1]  The International Criminal Court has recently issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, raising questions not only of how his arrest is arranged, but of sovereignty’s relationship to human rights.[2]  Intervention is a topic that transcends boundaries of ethics, law, politics, warfare and history, and judging its success is a ‘methodological conundrum.’[3]  Moreover, wars in Africa tend to be more complicated and less understood by foreign states then wars within their sphere of influence.   The interventions in Somalia and Sierra Leone will be looked at in this paper.

 

Intervention is not a new concept, but it changed with the end of the Cold War with the rest of the international scene.  With the battle between East and West over, human rights were being pushed to the top of the agenda for governments, without the worry of political affiliations to detract them anymore.[4]  The United Nations Security Council had been freed up and the incessant vetoing of each side’s decisions had finally ceased.  It is from this process that the idea of humanitarian intervention emerges, and what concerns us with Somalia and Sierra Leone.  Martha Finnemore defines humanitarian intervention as ‘deploying military force across borders for the purpose of protecting foreign nationals from man-made violence.’[5]  But how does this fit into international relations theory?  Liberals fall under the Solidarist international society theory, who believe in the right of humanitarian intervention, the protection of human rights and the assertion of human morals.  Realists on the other hand form the Pluralist international society theory, whereby they argue that states would not intervene primarily for humanitarian reasons, states would not risk their solder’s lives for humanitarian reasons, the disregarding of the principle of non-use of force would lead to abuse and that it is impossible to reach an international consensus on a humanitarian doctrine. [6]  But both these schools of thought still struggle to sufficiently explain humanitarian interventions where neither economic nor state security was to be gained, as in Somalia.

 

Somalia

 

In Foreign Policy’s 2008 Failed State Index, Somalia was ranked number one, just beating Zimbabwe and Sudan to the title.[7]  Considering the resources put into the intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s, this is an illuminating example of how not to intervene.  With the end of the Cold War, US President George Bush’s ‘New World Order’ signalled a new era for humanitarianism, but this was short lived.  To put events into context, Said Barré had ruled Somalia since 1969, but was eventually overthrown in 1991 after a devastating civil war by the United Somali Congress (USC) led by General Mohammed Farah Aideed.  The USC then split between Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohammed, which led to fighting that was fuelled by the huge numbers of weapons available after the war.  Matters were complicated further with the 1992 famine, which first prompted the United Nations to distribute food aid to the starving population.[8]  The first criticism of the UN has been levelled at them during this period, some saying that they arrived after the famine when up to 350,000 people had already died.[9]  The ensuing intervention took place in three phases: the United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM I and II) and the United Task Force (UNITAF), these shall be looked at in turn.

 

UNOSOM I was established in April 1992 by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 751, its mandate was to monitor a ceasefire that had been agreed between Aideed and Mahdi, and to escort humanitarian aid to its distribution centres.[10]  The UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for UNOSOM I was Mohammed Sahnoun from Algeria, and was regarded as having a good understanding of Somalia and the situation that was developing.  But from early on it was clear that Aideed and Mahdi were not going to honour the ceasefire and were responsible for much aid being stolen.  By August 1992, the UNSC passed Resolution 775 authorising more troops to provide greater security for humanitarian aid, but these troops never arrived, and the few that were present barely left their compounds.[11]  Sahnoun made several attempts to maximise the UN’s effectiveness; his understanding of Somali culture prompted him to try and engage with local leaders and he suggested a decentralised approach rather than just concentrating on the capital Mogadishu.  But Sahnoun clashed with UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on many occasions, and after confusion over troop deployment for Resolution 775, Sahnoun resigned.[12]  It was not long after this that events in Somalia began to deteriorate further.

 

It was this decline in the situation that prompted the US to intervene in their emotively titled ‘Operation Restore Hope’.  In December 1992 the UNSC passed Resolution 794 which authorised this under the title UNITAF, though troops were to be under US and not UN control.[13]  What made Resolution 794 so significant was the unanimous backing it received, even from the likes of China and Russia, who said the circumstances were exceptional because the Somali government had ceased to exist.  A move like this would not be possible today and is an indication of the changing mood in the world at that time.[14]  The UNITAF mandate was to secure the distribution of aid by any means, of which can be regarded as a partial success as many lives were saved by their arrival.  But Theo Farrell argues that UNITAF failed for three reasons: There was no need for military intervention as the obstacles faced were not as bad as had been reported; UNITAF missed an early opportunity to disarm the factions which would have calmed the conflict; and that some UNITAF soldiers were too heavy-handed in their methods, resulting in many civilian casualties. [15]  Despite their mandate, UNITAF forces began searching for and destroying arms caches in January 1991, in one instance killing 30 civilians in the process.[16]  But UNITAF’s greatest failure was that it did not complete the job, and the reasons for this can be seen in the circumstances of its origins.  President Bush was nearing the end of his term, and was being pushed by the American public and media to intervene in Bosnia, but chose Somalia instead as the ‘easier’ option.  US Secretary of State Colin Powell set the doctrine for Somalia and the US was set to withdraw by April 1993, regardless of what the situation in Somalia was at the time.  This severely limited timeframe did not allow any long-term plans to be made for Somalia, particularly state-building.  Furthermore, US coverage of the situation in Somalia was deliberately positive to make their withdrawal look successful – which it was not – and prompted withdrawals by other nations which crippled the entire UN effort.[17] Had the huge numbers of UNITAF been put to better use such as disarmament, the bloodshed to come may have been avoided.

 

UNOSOM II was created under UNSC Resolution 814 in March 1993, designed to take over from the departing UNITAF force.  They were to engage more in peace-enforcement than peacekeeping, and were authorised by all necessary means to secure the distribution of humanitarian aid.[18]  It was still a large force drawing from 30 countries, and their budget was set at $1.6 billion, compared to $42.9 for UNOSOM I.[19]  They were to operate under the delicate ceasefire declared between Aideed and Mahi as part of the Addis Ababa agreement, but they were never able to fulfil their mandate.  By May 1993 the situation was deteriorating, culminating on the 5th June attack on Pakistani soldiers inspecting an arms cache next to Aideed’s radio station.  The passing of Resolution 837 was the final movement to all out warfare and the greatest mistake of UNOSOM II, as the ‘hunt for Aideed’ began.  Admiral Jonathan Howe, who is in charge of UNOSOM II, offered a reward of $25,000 for Aideed, ‘acting in an idiom more suited to the Wild West than the complex task of peace and security building.’[20]  The ensuing battle for Mogadishu saw massive civilian and UN deaths, which strengthened support for Aideed. The turning point was in October 1993 when the Task Force Ranger was ambushed, resulting in the death of 18 US Rangers.[21]  The new US president Bill Clinton immediately stopped all aggressive action and began the process of withdrawing US troops, completed by March 1994, leaving the UN forces to try and fulfil their already impossible mandate.  In February 1994 the UN raised their white flag by passing Resolution 897, stopping all coercive action.[22] 

 

The limited political objectives of the US completely undermined all efforts in Somalia, as did the move from peacekeeping to peace-enforcement to warfare in the hunt for Aideed.  When there were large numbers on the ground, a process of disarmament should have been at attempted, or at the very least (and more controversially) the UN and US should have backed either Aideed or Mahdi against the other, rather than try and fight them both.  These failings in Somalia destroyed the world’s appetite for humanitarian intervention, as was seen a few years later as the Rwandan genocide took place.

 

Sierra Leone

 

Siaka Stevens had been president of Sierra Leone from 1967 until 1985, plundering the country’s resources and leaving it bankrupt and corrupt to the core.  When Joseph Momoh took over power, he was not much of an improvement.  In March 1991 Charles Taylor and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh invaded Sierra Leone from Liberia, claiming to put an end to the corruption of the Sierra Leonean government, starting a decade of violence, coups and gross human rights abuses.[23]  The ensuing civil war between the RUF and government forces was being fuelled by several factors: The term ‘civil’ is somewhat misleading as forces crossed in and out of Sierra Leone from neighbouring countries with little regard for borders. The presence of diamonds may not have been the sole cause of the war, but it fuelled its continuation by funding militias and paying for arms and ammunition.  The patrimonial politics of the government and their ‘winner takes all’ policies led to the virtual collapse of all state structures.[24]  Youths with no future got involved in drugs, crime and gangs, making them prime recruiting for the RUF.  As the situation deteriorated further in the mid 1990s, intervention took place in three forms; under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and their Military Observer Group (ECOMOG), then the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and eventually the British intervention under Operation Palliser. 

 

ECOMOG was initially deployed on the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia in May 1992 to monitor the flow of refugees and weapons, and by 1998 their strength was 10,000 troops with Nigeria contributing the lion’s share of forces.[25]  Being a regional outfit, ECOMOG should have been best suited to deal with the conflict in Sierra Leone, and they did have some successes, most notably the 1996 election which was regarded as relatively free and fair, which Ahmed Tejan Kabbah won.  Though he lost power to the RUF in a coup in 1997, he would eventually serve out the remainder of his presidency from 1998 until 2007.[26]  But their overall goal of restoring peace and stability was not completed.  They arrived late, as the atrocities being committed in Liberia by Charles Taylor warranted a much earlier intervention.[27]  ECOMOG was dogged by internal rivalry, as Nigeria being the regional hegemony tasked itself with completing most of the offensive operations.  Under the presidency of Sani Abacha, Nigeria had a less than acceptable human rights record, which made Britain and the US hesitant to support ECOMOG militarily or financially.[28]  The death of Sani Abacha in 1998 signalled a change in policy for ECOMOG, as the new Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was not keen on the idea of the $1 million a day price tag for Nigerian involvement in Sierra Leone.[29]  Their withdrawal on the eve of the breakthrough Lome Peace Agreement could not have happened at a worse time, and the UN had to pick up the pieces.

 

UNAMSIL was created by UNSC Resolution 1270 to replace the previous UN observer mission and to facilitate the Lome Peace Agreement signed between President Kahhah and RUF leader Foday Sankoh.  Their main priorities were to fill the gap left by the departure of ECOMOG, ensure all parties adhere to the Lome Peace Agreement, and also presented the UN with an opportunity to build on their international profile.[30]  Upon their arrival, UN troops became a prime target for assassinations and abductions, leading to the UN having to expand their forces several times.  The UN forces had trouble identifying who the rebels were, and despite the increasing violence the UN did not authorise the use of force.  This led to the UN spending much time and resources in negotiating the release of its own troops taken hostage by the RUF.[31]  A further criticism levelled at UNAMSIL was their endorsement of the Lome Peace Agreements, as this can been seen as legitimising the RUF rather than prosecuting them for their violations and mutilations committed during the height of the war.[32]  Even as their own overview states, ‘UNAMSIL completed most of the tasks assigned it by the Security Council.’[33]  It was not until the arrival of the British that real progress was made.

 

The arrival of the British Armed Forces under Operation Palliser in May 2000 was a turning point in the conflict, although the British had been involved before this such as their funding of the 1996 elections.  They were prompted to assist UNAMSIL after the kidnapping of 500 UN peacekeepers, and to evacuate the remaining British citizens left in Sierra Leone.[34]  British impact was immediate, as the RUF released the UN hostages in August 2000, and in response to the kidnapping of eleven British troops they responded by annihilating the West Side Boys arm of the RUF.[35]  What made British intervention in Sierra Leone was their limited goals they set.  Short term goals were to reverse the gains made by the RUF and to promote pro-government forces, and long term goals were to promote peace and security.[36]  Although UNAMSIL claims credit for the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), this would not have been possible without the British forces improving the security situation in Sierra Leone.[37] 

 

Despite Sierra Leone being regarded as a success story of international intervention, it is hard to draw any positives from it apart from the British success in ending the conflict.  When the war was declared over in January 2002, over 50,000 people had died, 20,000 had been mutilated and over 75 percent of the population was displaced.[38]  Perhaps the success of the British can be explained by their cultural appreciation of Sierra Leone as a former British colony, but had their arrival been a few years earlier, many more lives could have been saved.

 

Conclusion

 

The concept of international intervention in the post-Cold War world is still in its infancy.  Africa is a complicated and misunderstood continent that so often proves to be the exception to the rule.   Furthermore, Africa is moving further into the sphere of influence of China – a country’s whose ideas of sovereignty and human rights still clash with the west today – leaving the people of Zimbabwe and Darfur to suffer further.   Somalia and Sierra Leone differ in many ways, such as the lack of and mass of natural resources in each respective country, and the legacy of colonialism that prompted intervention.  But similarly they both provide fascinating case studies of intervention, and leave us with more questions than answers when looking at how intervention fits into international relations.


[1] Michael Evans, ‘Paddy Ashdown: Military Intervention in Zimbabwe ‘could be justified’’, The Times, < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article4201084.ece&gt;

[2] ‘Braced for the aftershock’, The Economist, March 7th-13th 2009, pp. 65-66.

[3] Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society, (Oxford 2006), p. 206.

[4] John Young and John Kent, International Relations Since 1945: A Global History (Oxford 2004), p. 681.

[5] Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs About the Use of Force (Ithaca 2004), p. 53.

[6] Nicholas Wheeler and Alex Bellamy, ‘Humanitarian intervention and world politics’, cited in John Bayliss and Steve Smith, The Globalization of World Politics: An introduction to international relations (Oxford 2001), pp. 473-476.

[7] ‘The Failed State Index 2008’, Foreign Policy (July/August 2008), http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4350

[8] Guy Arnold, Africa: A Modern History (London 2005), p. 831.

[9] Saving Strangers, p. 174.

[11] Theo Farrell, ‘Sliding Into War: The Somalia Imbroglio and the US Army Peacekeeping Doctrine’, International Peacekeeping (Volume 2, Number 2, Summer 1995) p. 196.

[12] Saving Strangers, pp. 176-178.

[13] International Relations Since 1945, p. 683.

[14] Saving Strangers, pp. 184-186.

[15] Sliding Into War, pp. 197-199.

[16] Africa: A Modern History, pp. 831-832.

[17] Ibid, p. 836.

[19] UNOSOM I and II reports.

[20] Saving Strangers, p. 195.

[21] Sliding Into War, p. 203.

[22] UNOSOM II report.

[23] Martin Meredith, The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (London 2005), pp. 561-563.

[24] John Hirsch, ‘War In Sierra Leone’, Survival (Volume 43, Number 3, Autumn 2001), pp. 6-7.

[25] Kwaku Nuamah and William Zartman, ‘Case Study: Intervention in Sierra Leone’ (July 2001), Centre for International and Security Studies at Maryland http://www.cissm.umd.edu/papers/display.php?id=89

[26] Funmi Olonisakin, Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone: The Story of UNAMSIL (London 2008), pp. 17-18.

[27] Case Study: Intervention in Sierra Leone, p. 9.

[28] Paul Williams, ‘Fighting for Freetown: British Military Intervention in Sierra Leone’, in Dimensions of Western Military Intervention (London 2002), Ed. Colin McInnes and Nicholas Wheeler, p. 153.

[29] Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone, p. 44

[30] Ibid, p. 38.

[31] Case Study: Intervention in Sierra Leone, p. 11.

[32] Dimensions of Western Military Intervention, p. 151.

[33] UNAMSIL End of Mission Press Kit, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unamsil/Overview.pdf , emphasis added.

[34] Dimensions of Western Military Intervention, p. 154.

[35] Case Study: Intervention in Sierra Leone, p. 13.

[36] Ibid, p. 14-15.

[37] Dimensions of Western Military Intervention, pp. 40-41.

[38] The State of Africa, p. 572.

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